After winning independence from Great Britain in 1776, the United States was in need of an organized national government, clearly defined in written form. The first Continental Congress drafted the Articles of confederation the following year, though it would not be ratified until 1781. The Articles provided the framework for a centralized government but ultimately were not strong enough to enforce its own requirements. A new constitution was needed. Congressional leaders began the process of drafting another document that would strengthen the weak federal government while continuing to ensure individual liberties. The Constitution of the United States was ratified in 1787 after much debate and compromise.
The Articles of Confederation
The Articles of Confederation were written to supply the newly independent nation with guidelines for a centralized government. Under the Articles, this government was successful in winning independence from Great Britain through the Revolutionary War. Members of the Continental Congress negotiated an end to the war by signing the Treaty of Paris. Another accomplishment of the Articles was the establishment of the Departments of Foreign Affairs, War, Marine and Treasury.
Although the Articles of Confederation were a step in the right direction for America, it became increasingly obvious that they were inadequate to provide the strong national government needed. The government was unable to successfully regulate commerce, levy taxes or settle any disputes between states. The economy, under the Articles, was nearing disaster with high inflation, a bankrupt treasury and failing businesses and farms. With taxation one of the central re...
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Anti-Federalists were adamant about the addition of a bill of rights to ensure protection against tyranny and inequality between the classes. Even Thomas Jefferson, a supporter of the constitution, argued with Madison that a bill of rights was “what the people are entitled to against every government on earth.” (A More Perfect Union: The Creation of the U.S. Constitution. pg. 8, para.5). Madison himself later proposed a list of 17 amendments to the House, 10 of which were eventually ratified and became what we now know as the “Bill of Rights.” The Constitution was complete.
Despite the debates, controversy and fears over a new form of government, the Constitution has proven superior to the Articles of Confederation. It has ensured more power for the federal government in the areas where the Articles of Confederation left it weak.
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